Auburn Football: Malzahn: “We Expect to Win Championships”


Dec 7, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Auburn Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn celebrates after winning the 2013 SEC Championship game against the Missouri Tigers at Georgia Dome. Auburn won 59-42. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn knows there are high expectations for the Tigers – this year and every year – and he embraces the challenge.

“Auburn’s a program where you have high expectations,” Malzahn said Monday night on the Tiger Talk radio show. “We want to win championships here, and we’re still building this thing.”

So far, Malzahn has built a very solid foundation. The No. 4 Tigers have a 6-1 record, including a 3-1 mark in SEC play in the head coach’s second season at the helm. His first year on the Plains went about as well as it possibly could.

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The Tigers were 12-2 in Malzahn’s first season as head coach, losing to Florida State in the BCS National Championship Game after a magical run that included one breathtaking victory after another. The success in Year 1 led to a lot of national title talk in the off-season and has continued through the first seven games 2014.

“Personally, I like the high expectations,” Malzahn said. “I think our players do, and I know our coaches do.”

Malzahn is the only current member of the Auburn football coaching staff that was part of the 2010 National Championship team, but everyone was on board for last season’s worst-to-first SEC Championship. Most of the current players were also part of the celebration in the Georgia Dome after the Tigers defeated Missouri 59-42 to capture the conference title last season. Many were also among the group that endured a disappointing cross-country flight home from Pasadena.

Quarterback Nick Marshall was the leader of the offense in 2013, and is coming off his best performance of the 2014 season. Marshall completed 12 of 14 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown and added 89 rushing yards and three more touchdowns on the ground in Auburn’s 42-35 win over South Carolina Saturday.

Cameron Artis-Payne, an understudy running back most of last season, has been the primary ball carrier this year for the Tigers. He too put together a great game against the Gamecocks and ran for 167 yards and a touchdown last week. Last season’s leading receiver, Sammie Coates, is finding his stride after dealing with a nagging early-season leg injury, but talented newcomer D’haquille Williams has picked up the slack and kept the Tigers very balanced offensively.

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  • Additionally, the defense has been better this year than last. In 2013, Auburn ranked in the bottom half of the SEC statistically in nearly every major defensive category, but made timely plays to keep opponents out of the end zone when it mattered most (much like Saturday’s game against South Carolina). This season, the Tigers have held opponents to 20.7 points per game – which ranks in the top 25 nationally – and have performed very well against the run holding opponents to an average of 120.4 rushing yards per contest.

    Based on the strength of one of the nation’s most explosive offenses as well as an improving defense, high expectations are warranted. And there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

    “Last year, we almost got it done, this year we’ve done some good things,” Malzahn said. “It’s headed in the right direction.”

    Today is important in regards to the direction of the program. The very first College Football Playoff rankings will be released this evening, and the Tigers are expected to be in the mix for a playoff spot. It’s also 100 days until National Signing Day, when the nation’s top high school prospects decide where they will play college football.

    To keep up with the annual championship expectations that Malzahn faces as the head coach of the Auburn football program, he’ll need to keep one eye on the present and one on the future. Wins on the field will lead to wins in recruiting wars. Both will lead to championships.

    So far, so good.

    Check out Malzahn’s full interview from this week’s Tiger Talk, as posted by

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